The LaGrange College cross country team is carrying a great deal of momentum into the 2019 USA South Championship on Saturday at N.C. Wesleyan, as the Panthers set 11 personal records during their last meet at the Foothills Invitational on Oct. 5.
LaGrange's lineup at the conference meet in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, will consist of seniors Kyle Hildebrand, Liz Minick and Darius Wonnum, juniors Natalie Glass and Alexis Westrick, sophomores Holly Moreland, Bryan Storie and Karli Whitaker, and freshmen Garret Callahan, Elijah Rachel, Malcolm Roberts, Jyheem Rollins and Alex Whiten.
|Holly Moreland earned All-Conference Honorable Mention honors in 2018.|
"The last three weeks of practice leading up to the USA South Championship has been great," said Panthers head coach Jasen Jonus. "We had a great showing in September at N.C. Wesleyan's course, and everyone is excited to go back. We keep telling everyone to get better and stay consistent each day so we can peak at the conference championship. We are so proud of how diligently our team has worked this season, and the student-athletes are paving the way for future Panthers."
Sarah Bearden '18 has done an outstanding job in her second year as an assistant coach for the Panthers, while junior Gavin Battle and freshman Jessica Breeding have been crucial components on the team.
The Panthers placed ninth out of 15 on the women's side with a team score of 257 at the 2018 conference championship, trailing eighth-place Maryville by only 11 points. The ninth-place finish in the team standings was a huge improvement from LaGrange's 12th-place finish in 2017. Berea took home first-place honors in the women's rankings with 26 points.
Moreland led the charge during her rookie season, earning All-Conference Honorable Mention honors with a 28th-place finish out of 114 competitors on the 6-kilometer course in Maryville, Tennessee. At the conference meet on the women's side, the top-seven finishers receive All-Conference First Team honors, the next seven receive Second Team accolades, and then 15 through 21 receive Third Team recognition. The Honorable Mention award includes the runners who finish between 22nd and 30th overall.
"I am excited for the conference championship," said Moreland. "It is a long season, but the end is always worth it. We get to run the race we know so well and prove not only to ourselves but to everyone that we have what it takes to achieve our goals."
Whitaker was the Panthers' fourth-place finisher, grabbing 73rd-place recognition at the 2018 USA South Championship. Rounding out the top-five for LaGrange was Glass (35:07.6).
The Panthers placed ninth overall out of 12 in the team standings on the men's side with a score of 267 at the 2018 conference meet. Berea earned first-place accolades with 16 points.
Storie led the way during his freshman campaign on the conference stage, placing 22nd overall out of 95 runners on the 8-kilometer course. He barely missed earning All-Conference Third Team laurels, as the top-15 through 21 received the honor. There is no Honorable Mention award on the men's side.
"I am excited and feel well prepared for the USA South Championship," said Storie. "My teammates and I have been working diligently every day to get ready for this opportunity. I am ready to run and leave everything I have on the course."
Wonnum (35:17.5) was the fourth Panther to cross the finish line at the 2018 conference championship.
Storie and Moreland also starred at the 2018 NCAA Division III South/Southeast Regional, as they led the way on the men's and women's side, respectively, for the Panthers. Moreland finished 87th out of 237 competitors, while Storie was the 93rd runner out of 239 to cross the finish line.
Women's 2019 Highlights:
- Moreland has been the Panthers' top-performer in all three meets that she has competed in this fall. The sophomore standout set a personal record of 23:06.40 during the 5-kilometer race at the Foothills Invitational. She placed ninth overall out of 67 competitors at the N.C. Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 21.
- Whiten was LaGrange's first-place performer, finishing 28th overall out of 79 at the Middle Georgia Invitational on Sept. 7. Whiten has finished in the team's top-two in all four meets during her rookie season.
- Minick has placed in the team's top-three on three different occasions, recording a personal-best performance of 26:16.10 in the 5-kilometer event at the Foothills Invitational.
- Whitaker has finished in the Panthers' top-four in all four meets, including being the team's third-place performer twice.
Men's 2019 Highlights:
- Storie has finished in the No. 1 slot for LaGrange in all four meets this fall. He finished first overall at the Middle Georgia Invitational on Sept. 7, and then earned runner-up honors with a career-best time of 28:13.2 on the 8-kilometer course at the N.C. Wesleyan Invitational on Sept. 21.
- Rollins has hit the ground running in his rookie season, finishing in the Panthers' second spot in all four meets. He tallied a personal-best time of 31:23.10 on the 8-kilometer course at the Foothills Invitational. Rollins finished 12th and 27th overall, respectively, in the individual standings at the Middle Georgia Invitational and N.C. Wesleyan Invitational.
- Callahan has been the squad's third-place finisher in back-to-back meets, as he set a personal record with a time of 32:31.40 on the 8-kilometer course at the Foothills Invitational. Callahan finished 28th overall at the N.C. Wesleyan Invitational and 33rd at the Middle Georgia Invitational.
- Wonnum finished in the Panthers' third slot at the Middle Georgia Invitational, placing 14th overall. He registered a personal-best performance at the Foothills Invitational, with a time of 34:03.30 during the 8-kilometer race.
- The Panther teams will compete at the NCAA Division III Regional Championship on Saturday, Nov. 16, at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee.